Fritz: Wine Tasting Goes “Underground”

It was Jay Fritz’s embracement of sustainability and quality that ultimately made Fritz Winery—known as “the underground winery”—what it is today.

The company’s ongoing respect for the vineyards, as well as the traditions of artisan, hand-crafted winemaking, are a testament to its founding in 1979 and its commitment to the future.

Clayton Fritz is the family member in charge these days, and as he likes to say, “Why would anyone in their right mind ever look outside Sonoma County for fruit? We have everything here and sufficient soil variation to provide a wide assortment of truly great varietals.”

The winery is located in northern Sonoma County—Cloverdale, to be precise—and its wares have earned praise from wine enthusiasts and critics from around the world.

Fritz Underground Winery is a visionary wonder built ahead of its time by Jay Arthur Fritz in the Gaudi architectural style, reflecting forms found in and complementing nature.

Built into the side of a picturesque hill atop the northernmost region of the famed Dry Creek Valley, the Fritz Winery operates with a modern sensibility for efficiency and awareness by utilizing the unique attributes of its subterranean design.

Naturally cool temperatures, ideal for winemaking and cellaring, are maintained without any use of expensive or carbon-heavy devices common to modern wine production. The three-tiered structure maximizes energy efficiency by capitalizing on the gift of gravity.

“By harnessing gravity to move our juice from the crush pad down to the tanks and barrels, we’re not only saving energy by forgoing pumps, we’re also saving our precious juice from the detrimental effects of excessive pulsation and buffeting,” Clayton Fritz explains. “It’s in this way that the delicate nuances present in our Pinot Noir and other prized estate fruit is maintained and then nurtured by our winemaker, Brad Longton.”

And what wonderful fruit it is.

“At Fritz, we choose to hand-craft fine wines from the most famous and reputable growing regions in Sonoma County, including the Russian River Valley and the Dry Creek Valley,” Longton notes.

And because most of the bottlings are made in quantities of 200 cases or fewer, Longton is able to embrace a true artisan approach, giving each and every barrel a great deal of attention prior to bottling and release.

Among Fritz’s offerings are regular and/or “Reserve” renditions of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The winery also offers an unusual (and refreshing) 50/50 blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc called Vino Valpredo Bianca Mia.

Tomorrow: Five ways to visit Fritz.

Posted in Wineries of Distinction
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